I have been thinking a great deal lately about ministry effectiveness. Over the past five or six months I have experienced highs and lows around the church. I have witnessed meaningful ministry take place. At the same time, I have witnessed some things that got in the way of meaningful ministry. In a recent Missions Team meeting I was challenged by a question no one in the room was expecting. We were debriefing a recent ministry event; having shared the highlights of the night (how many people, types of activities, how much food, etc.) At the end of the discussion, this question was asked, “Yeah, but did we tell them that God loves them?” It was uncomfortably quiet. I had to face the fact that I assumed our service automatically conveyed this truth. I had to face the fact that we were so busy serving (giving away water, popcorn, candy, food, etc.) we didn’t intentionally focus on engaging people with the truth that God loves them and desires a personal relationship with them. In summary, our focus was not clear. I’m not saying that no one had a gospel conversation with those we were serving. I know a few did. Although we served well, overall, we missed the most important thing. We must do better next time. I must do better next time.
When the focus in wrongly placed, we shift the direction and movement of the church into reverse. It is in reverse that good is accepted in place of great. Activity becomes a suitable alternative to difficult conversations. Personal agendas become more important than the Lord’s mission. Criticism and fault-finding starve out encouragement and love. Evangelism and missions give way to committees and constitutions.
The lost person is always on my mind. Their condition convicts me. Their future frightens me. Their worship is desired by God. They deserve a New Testament church that is focused on the important things. They deserve truth, not excuse. They deserve love, not a loathsome look. They deserve a verbal witness, not simply a prayer or nod of acknowledgment. I wonder what the lost person thinks of the church today? I have often wondered what kind of questions go through their mind. What would the questions of a lost person look like? I believe it may look something like this:
- I am lost. I do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You do. Why do you spend most of your time adding and perfecting programs that appear to be designed for those who already know Him? What about me?
- I am lost. I do not have peace in my life right now. You do. Don’t others have the right to hear about the source of your peace? What about me?
- I am lost. I do not know why I am here. You do. Why do you choose to build buildings instead of building bridges? What about me?
- I am lost. If I were to die today, I would enter an unimaginable torment. You would not. Have you forgotten what it is like to be separated from God’s presence?What about me?
- I am lost. I do not know the good news of the gospel as you refer to it. You do. Why do you spend so much time debating and discussing trivial matters while futures of many like me hang in the balance? What about me?
- I am lost. The only father I know is my earthly father. You know Him. Are you content with letting me figure out this “salvation” thing on my own? All religions are the same, right? What about me?
- I am lost. I will not be held accountable for keeping my mouth shut. You will. Is the fear of embarrassment and rejection more of a concern to you than obeying the God you say you love? What about you?